Roland D-70

Roland D-70 Image

Billed as the next in line to the Roland "LA" synthesis crown, the D70 is an odd keyboard. It actually has more in common with the U-20/220 series ROMplers than with the D-50/550, which it was "kind-of meant" to replace. In fact, if you open it up, you''ll find the circuit boards are labelled "U50". Unfortunately, the D70 / U50 was rushed into production, to compete with the likes of the Korg M1 and T1/T2/T3ex series machines, and this lack of design care shows when navigating the user-interface, which could be politely described as "challenging".

So, given the similarities to the rather mediocre U-series sample ROMplers, and the "Super-LA" name....what to make of it?

The D-70 has a sample playback engine married to D50 style TVF filters, together with on-board effects, and a percussion soundset. The filters are resonant, and add some much needed "welly". This is the D-70's redeeming feature, because the filters are actually pretty damn good. It's a shame that (to this reviewer's knowledge) it doesn't seem possible to filter the drum samples though.

Performance wise, the D70 has a good quality 76 note keyboard in a sleek housing, and given its size, it's remarkably light. It is equipped with a large LCD display, to the left of which are 4 assignable faders. There is a fifth controller fader, labelled "C1" just above the pitch bender, in between the volume and brightness (filter cutoff) faders. The faders can be assigned in real-time to the following parameters: Level, Pan, Tuning, Cutoff, Resonance, Attack, and Release, using the keypad to the left of fader 1. The four faders equate to the four tones that can be used to make up a patch, rather like the D50's "upper / lower partials" although the more tones you apply, the lower the polyphony. This gives the performer real-time tweakability for doing filter sweeps, changing the relative levels of tones (for drawbar-style effects), etc. As an added bonus, the faders send MIDI data...

...which makes the D70 an excellent master keyboard for MIDI setups. It has keyboard splitting and zoning options that you'd expect to find on master keyboards. That's if you can decipher the midi implementation and work your way round an interface that redefines the word "awkward". Couple that with a 220 page manual, and it's not something you really want to do on stage, unless you've got it all worked out in advance. The D70 is one of those synths that you'll find yourself both enjoying and cursing in fairly equal measure.

Sound-wise, the D70 raw samples are your typical U20/220 faire. In fact the D70 reads U220 series PCM cards, and has two PCM card slots on the rear of the unit, together with a RAM slot. This may not sound too appealing - if you're looking for genuine acoustic instruments, then it's not for you. But, the D70 has some remarkably good Rhodes and Organ patches, and some fantastic synth bass and lead sounds. Couple this with the on board fx, and it is a bit like a souped-up D50 with much better filters, which provide both squelchy resonance and knob-twiddlyness.

To summarize, it's a nice ROMpler, albeit a little schizophrenic, capable of some wonderful classic Roland synth-noises, and makes a decent performance / live / master keyboard as well. It sounds better than the U220. If you're looking for a "proper synthesizer" you may be disappointed. Real shame actually; a bit more effort on Roland's part and this could have been a right little stomper. Due to the fact that it was never really a success, the D70 can prove very hard to find on the used market. But once you've got one, you probably won't want to let it go - it has JUST enough features in several different departments to redeem itself, and the warmth of the synth sounds belies their digital origin.

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60 Visitor comments
October 26, 2009 @ 2:16 am
At least the 4 sliders transmit something. The JV 80/90 are an scam because thyey have 8 fathers that do not transmit any midi data just "internal parametres" that are actually useless because the response of the sliders are not accurate and you can not assing a single function to each. If you are controlling volume all the sliders will be controlling volume... what a crap... I men, in the JV series.
alba ecstasy
September 1, 2009 @ 8:18 am
The first serious keyboard synth that i have played ten years ago. This year I bought one for 250 USD, with problems on 8 keys (C4 - B5) (velocity affected), but still working and in good conditions. Very good sounds [as you can listen on my page - ] especially the pads, piano and voices.
My question for you is: where I can find an electric scheme for a D70? some of the keys are not working anymore after a tried to fix the "enter & write" buttons... so, I guess is something from wires, contacts, bcs was unplugged when I opened it. Or, anybody knows what happened? thank you very much!
August 30, 2009 @ 4:54 pm
from SOS article:

"The same synthesis architecture lay at the heart of the D10 and D20 synths, and their rackmount equivalent, the D110. Again, these employed the limited LA synthesis pioneered by the MT32 so, in comparison to the D50, they sounded uniformly uninspiring."

Lets make it clear here to all those idiot EBAY sellers who HAVE to mention the D-50 in their 'other D series' adverts to boost their resell prices. None of the synths other than th D-50 contained the 'FULL LA' Engine, none sound like the D-50. The D-70 included.
August 12, 2009 @ 3:56 pm
this was my first legitimate keyboard synth so perhaps it will always have a place in my heart. it's capable of producing some mesmerizing pads and strings almost on par with a korg wavestation and d50, although its really not like the d50 at all when it comes to editing. it has a badly organized sound editing architecture, buggy keyboard reliability, and expensive if not non-existent replacement parts. the sound however, is lovely. i'm reminded of my love/hate relationship with this jaguar, and sometimes i think about having mine repaired.
July 25, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but WHO CARES?!!! There are far worse things going on in the world right now such as this [beep] Y economy, but I digress....The D70 may not have done a whole heap of justice to the "D" series FAM, but I use to own one and I loved it. It had some pretty colourful sounds, really nice warm pads to embellish any composition then or now. I concur with most, editing can be a pain-in-the-@$$, but it's an awesome synth nonetheless. I still have all 4 for my DATA ROM sound cards and both my D70 manuals. Unfortunately, the one I had, the keyboar bed was faulty and I could afford to keep getting keys fixed, so I let the one I had go. The D50 will always and forever be the Cadillac. Thats why I also own both the D50 and D550. But I will acquire another D70 in the near future lord willin', just to have.
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User Rating

Rated 3.68 (347 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 30 voices
  • Oscillators - Digital ROM samples and DLM ("Differential Loop Modulation")
  • LFO - YES
  • Filter - TVF FILTER: low-pass-resonant (like D50).
  • VCA - TVA (like D50).
  • Effects - Reverb, Chorus, Flanger (like D50)
  • #Instruments - 5-parts + 1-percussion
  • Keyboard - 76 note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Memory - 10 user sets, 64 performances, 128 patches, 128 tones.
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1990-91
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Review by Jonathan McDougall.

    Reviewed December 2007.

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